04 octubre 2011

Speech by Loyola de Palacio

27th IRU World Congress
"Mobility of People and Goods 2000+"

Speech by

Loyola de Palacio

EU Transport Commissioner

Brussels, 18 May 2000

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to begin by telling you what an honour and a pleasure it is for me to take the floor at the opening session of the 27th World Congress of the IRU, and this for two reasons:

  • My first reason concerns the importance of the professional activity of transporting goods and people by road: your profession is the prevalent transport mode in the European Union and around the world. Consequently, your profession has both an irreplaceable role and a considerable responsibility in how modern society works; your profession contributes greatly to the efficiency and the quality of our society, as well as to our citizens’ standard of living.
  • My second reason concerns the theme of the Congress, notably the mobility of people and goods 2000+, a mobility that we all hope is sustainable. The theme of sustainable mobility lies at the very heart of the common transport policy that I am working on; safety, which you present as a basic condition for sustainable mobility, is also one of my priorities for transport.

The two points that I would like to address in my talk are the place and the role of road transport and of its professional representation, as well as the broad lines of the common transport policy.

In an increasingly global and hence competitive society, every link in the production and distribution chain is facing the need to improve its own competitiveness as well as that of the chain as a whole. I have seen that road transport, through its efficiency, reliability, lowered costs or, in a nutshell, through its excellent quality/price ratio, has considerably improved the competitiveness of its services.

Year by year, as road transport operators have increased their market share, they have also contributed to higher employment figures and have managed to reinforce their position as an absolutely essential transport mode, whether in unimodal transport or in combination with other transport modes. This is why I would like to publicly congratulate the IRU and its members for this economic performance that also provides companies and citizens alike with a valuable service.

But, as I am sure you will agree, with this undeniable success come certain responsibilities that your profession must shoulder. Transport services, which you provide, must have as few harmful effects on society as possible. I recognise that you have started to make a serious effort to meet these responsibilities. Indeed, in 1996, the IRU and its member associations and affiliated transport operators signed the IRU Charter for Sustainable Development during their 25th World Congress in Budapest. In this Charter, they committed themselves to working together towards the common goal of sustainable road transport that respects the environment and other road users. In the same spirit, they have rightly promoted sustainable mobility as a central theme of their World Congress this year.

With a view to making the transport system safer, more efficient, more environmentally-friendly and consequently more sustainable, the IRU adopts common positions after an internal consultation and conciliation procedure involving all its members. I am aware of the fact that on this basis, the IRU supports and encourages its members to further road safety, to use intermodal transport for medium and long distances, to make the best possible use of available transport equipment and infrastructure, to apply modern technologies, as well as to identify and spread best practices.

The action of a professional organisation alone is not enough. Such action must be supervised, oriented and supported by the regulatory and administrative initiatives of the public authorities. Which brings me to the second point of my talk dealing with the broad lines of the common transport policy for the coming years. Indeed, this common policy could be considered a policy of sustainable mobility or accessibility.

Allow me to briefly recall the key objectives of this policy: economic efficiency, safety in transport, respect for the environment.

Economic efficiency, for anything that is inefficient is a loss and a step backwards; to the contrary, we want to improve the standard of living of our citizens and our societies.

Safety in transport, for protecting the physical integrity and the health of all those who participate in transport is a major goal of our modern societies.

Respect for the environment, for we must not compromise the capacity of future generations to meet their needs just to satisfy our own current needs.

To meet these objectives, and notably that of sustainable mobility, I firmly believe that it is essential to put in place a coherent and balanced mixture of elements. I would like to mention six such measures today:

  • firstly, to pursue Community action to develop trans-European transport networks, to eliminate bottlenecks and to introduce intelligent transport systems. I know that your Union would like to see more infrastructure introduced and I am pleased that we share the same opinions on this point. I would further like to add that work on revising the orientations of the networks is now underway.
  • secondly, to prolong the framework programmes for research and development in transport.
  • thirdly, to make progress in opening the rail market and in revitalising transport by rail. In this matter, I realise that road transport operators would also like to see such an opening. That way, they could improve their cooperation with various rail transport operators with a view to achieving an optimal organisation of combined rail-road transport. Indeed, road transport operators already enjoy such cooperation with operators from the waterways, a market that was fully liberated recently, in organising combined waterways-road transport.
  • fourthly, to continue further in joint reflection on the implementation of fair and efficiency charging for transport infrastructure. I am well aware that the IRU is strongly opposed to this measure, which it fears will increase the fiscal pressure on road transport operators without corresponding advantages. Allow me to confirm to you that the goal pursued the Commission in this matter is far from increasing road taxation, but rather to reduce the transport costs engendered by pollution, noise, accidents and congestion. I am persuaded that you will understand that the will to reduce transport costs is fully in line with the will to achieve sustainable mobility.
  • fifthly, to continue actions at all levels to improve safety in transport, and especially on the roads. Basically, this involves influencing human behaviour, improving road infrastructures and reinforcing safety devices in vehicles. I am very happy to know that I can count on the strong support of the IRU in implementing the initiatives that the Commission has just announced in its Communication on road safety.
  • sixthly, to promote all actions in favour of social protection needed to ensure safer transport, particularly measures governing certain aspects of working time, vocational training and employment, while maintaining the flexibility needed in the road transport sector.

I would like to take this occasion to confirm my intention to update the White Paper on the Common Transport Policy dating back to 1992. Without wishing to go into the themes of the White Paper at this point, I can tell you that I would like to specify the priorities of each mode, to redefine the contents of certain measures, to launch new ideas and to clarify the approaches to take. Bearing this in mind, I would like to reflect on the changes underway in our societies at the levels of production, trade, employment, leisure, distribution and consumption to draw conclusions on the transport policy.

I would also, and for obvious reasons, like to further integrate the "energy" aspect into the transport policy. Finally, I would like to touch upon the pursuit of European integration through the enlargement of the Union, which is a central theme of the common transport policy and will be treated as such in the White Paper. The historical, socio-economical and cultural importance of enlargement is simply undeniable.

I am aware of the IRU’s position on enlargement and road transport. Given the specific nature of road transport, you are calling for a progressive opening of the markets in the Union in exchange for the progressive taking over and implementing of the Community acquis by the candidate countries. However, at European Union level, there has been no decision to date on any initiative in the matter. It is true that last December, the Council and the Commission recognised that the full opening of the road transport market could have considerable effects on the sector, on safety and on the environment. Consequently, a flexible transition system should be examined at a later stage of the adhesion negotiations. As for me, without wanting to anticipate the conclusions of such an examination, I think that a progressive approach is reasonable, but one must not underestimate the political, legal and practical difficulties that must be overcome.

It is my intention to further examine, refine and concretise these considerations on transport policy, the White Paper and enlargement in the coming months with my services, all while staying in close contact with the Member States, the other institutions and transport professionals.

I attach great importance to these contacts, including those with professional organisations like the IRU. Indeed, I deeply believe that good cooperation between the public and the private sectors is the best guarantee of the implementation of thought-out, efficient and sustainable solutions.

It is in this spirit that I wish to pursue my political actions in transport. I am sure that I can count on the support of the IRU to meet our objectives, in the interest of our citizens, in the interest of the transport world and in the interest of the entire European Union.

Thank you very much.